Turning Your Personal Celebration Into Something Bigger Than You

by Neal Kielar, Tastemaker in Residence

Happy birthday. Today’s your big day.  Happy anniversary to the two of you. Congratulations...and here’s a gift.

Its ingrained in us from the start that we’re the focus of celebrations and often the recipients of gifts marking the occasion. But some of us are older and already have most of the things we want. Others are far away and gift giving is complicated. And lots of people - for all kinds of reasons - are starting to see celebrations as something externally focused and not self-focused.

There's even a expression for it: "donating" your birthday, anniversary or other special occasion. As in, "I'm donating my birthday to a cause that matters to me."

When you donate your celebration to a cause or group, you're inviting friends and family to make contributions, volunteer or benefit the cause in some other way in your honor. Honestly, it’s not a brand new idea. People have requested donations in lieu of flowers at funerals for a long time. What’s new is how the idea has expanded to just about any of life’s celebratory events. Renewing your wedding vows or remarrying later in life and don’t need gifts? Donate your event to a cause that matters to you by asking guests and well wishers to make contributions in your honor. Works for birthdays, retirement and even big gift-giving holidays.

Even businesses are in on the trend. My business, MidModMen+friends, will mark it’s five-year anniversary that way. We’re donating five percent of sales during our anniversary week to People & Pets Together, a local charity that stocks a pet food shelf and helps keep pets with their families and out of overwhelmed rescue networks. Plus, we're holding an event for the organization at our store and encouraging customers to donate directly. Sure, we could have a sale but that doesn't create the kind of impact we want to make in our community. We're passionate about the cause and want to use our celebration to advance that.

This is something everyone can do at least once. Think about an event in your life worth celebrating and connect it to a cause in your life worth supporting. Bringing the two together makes it more meaningful for you, the cause and the people in your life.

Neal Kielar is the Owner & Creative Director for MidModMen+friends